Swamp Fox ‘Blue’ supports communities during times of devastation
By Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson, 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
/ Published November 02, 2015
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Thousands of South Carolina National Guardsmen were called to state active duty for flood disaster response and recovery efforts that affected much of the state early October.
For many Swamp Fox Airmen who were not activated, sitting at home and watching the news was not an option. Swarms of blue Swamp Fox t-shirts gathered in groups and dispersed across the midlands to volunteer their time and services to help those whose homes and lives were devastated by floodwaters.
"We all had our individual reasons for getting out to help, but the main and most common reason was that we could. It's that simple," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Wendy Broman, 169th Fighter wing budget analyst. "Most of us had the tools, the time and the physical ability, so we did what we could."
Many times the situation changed from going to help a fellow Swamp Fox or family member in need, to providing assistance to entire neighborhoods.
"I do think that our communities felt the Swamp Fox presence. There were blue shirts everywhere. Covered in dust, dirt, mud, mold and mildew; as well as being soaked in rain, sweat, blood and even a few tears," said Broman.
Swamp Fox Airmen from multiple units and skill sets went to many homes in neighborhoods and helped overwhelmed residents remove damaged walls, floors, furniture and personal belongings.
"The stories of the selfless acts of service and sacrifice are awe inspiring, epitomize our 'service before self' core value, and demonstrate the quality of individuals we have in this organization," said Col. David Meyer, 169th Fighter Wing commander.
Being a Swamp Fox with the desire to help the community wasn't just from officers and enlisted Airmen. Many brought their spouses and children to help assist the community on every level.
"We're a part of this community and when citizens are in need, we defend and protect our nation and our state; most of the time that's in a combat role. In a natural disaster role when we're not needed by the governor in a particular capacity, we're going to go find a capacity where we can contribute because we protect our community," said Lt. Col. Akshai Gandhi, 157th Fighter Squadron commander.
The National Guard falls under two prominent missions: state and federal. Most of the South Carolina Air National Guard was not activated by the governor to support the state's flood response. The Swamp Fox Aerospace Control Alert federal mission, a no-fail mission, had to remain operational.
"It was a pretty hectic time," said Maj. Ryan Corrigan, 157th Fighter Squadron fighter pilot. "The versatility of everyone on the base showed through."
Pilots and maintainers who already worked their 48-hour shift at alert stayed for an extended shift to cover for those unable to drive to work due to the road conditions.
"Everyone stepped up, dealt with adversity and did it with class. The Alert mission continued with zero deprivation. I was proud of everyone," said Corrigan.
Stories have surfaced of residents and neighbors outside their wrecked homes who would stop and wave and shout cheers to the "Swamp Foxes" passing by after the hours of sweat, care and help they offered others.
"It was a no-brainer to rally with coworkers in 'Swamp Fox Blue' t-shirts and work along team members as I had done so many times before around the world. It felt amazing to transition from the "Blue Shirt Gang" to proud members of the S.C. Air National Guard as interaction transpired working alongside other volunteers and homeowners," said Master Sgt. Jeremy Pow, 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons flight chief.
Swamp Fox to the core, some Airmen who suffered their own flood devastation were determined to put others' needs ahead of their own and devoted time and resources to get their communities back to normal.
"I want to pass on my heartfelt appreciation to each and every one of you for stepping up when needed most. I am humbled to be part of such an amazing group of Airmen. Thank you for all that you have done, and are doing," said Meyer.